Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Do You Fight In Front of the Kids?

05/01/2012 at 02:00 PM ET
Sean Smith

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her roles as Serena on Law & Order and Kate on Angel, has been blogging for PEOPLE.com for over a year now.

The actress, 39, currently stars as Taylor on The Client List, while upcoming film Transit will be out May 11, with Officer Down following later this year.

She can be found on Facebook, Google + and @ElisabethRohm.

In her latest blog, Röhm — mom to 4-year-old Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — wonders if avoiding confrontation helps or hurts her family.

Do you fight in front of the kids? How do you decide what’s appropriate for them to hear you discuss? Share your experience in the comments.

I don’t know about you ladies, but I’m a lover, not a fighter. I’m huge on communicating as a way to avoid conflicts in general. I’m famous for a lot of talk, talk, talk, but fighting has never been my style. I tend to just want to keep on trucking, without getting caught up in the superficial dramas of life.

Ultimately, I believe that there really isn’t that much that’s worth getting upset or bent out of shape about. I’m not bothered by much. Maybe that’s a choice, but it’s one I’ve made. Because of that, I find it challenging to deal with others who seem to get ruffled by just about everything. You know those people too, right?

As a way to deal with this, I’ve made a commitment of heading things off at the pass before they bubble up and boil over into a heaping mess on the floor that even the heartiest of paper towels just couldn’t clean up. I tend to talk it out before there is a need for a talk, I hope.

Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. Ultimately, there is a whole world of other people who don’t feel an ounce of discomfort with conflict, and therefore my desire for peace is hard-won.

It is true that I am likely to put my needs aside as a way to resolve issues … just so that I don’t have to have an argument that results in — hopefully but not always — a great make-up session. I’d just like to avoid the whole mess in general.

I’m guilty of wanting harmony so much that I can tend to avoid difficulty. I sometimes find that I push things aside that are uncomfortable, assuming that all will be better later and that whatever I’m feeling is not really a big deal.

My motto is to not sweat the small stuff. I realize this means that I don’t always speak my mind, but it’s so much better than having a drag-out conversation that lasts hours or even days. This is the case even more so now that I’m a mom.

So be it, I’m guilty of being a pleasure-seeker who wants everyone to not “worry, be happy,” like the song suggests. Because of this, I like the music playing in the house mixed with sounds of laughter and giggles, and just a dose of the real adult stuff that needs handling. I’m more interested in having a good time than dealing with drama over a list of items that could easily cause stress and worry. Everything gets handled in the end.

If I’m the one being confronted by another party, I tend to acquiesce pretty quickly as a way to find easy resolution. “I’m sorry” is comfortable for me to say, especially if I’m dealing with a loved one, if there’s a child in the house, or if it’s my partner who needs to resolve some issue that’s rubbing him the wrong way.

I’m just not one for a big blow up. Unfortunately I find that I’m in the minority in this regard, and that others are totally comfortable with confrontation and even crave it as a way to fix things, move on or feel connected to their partner.

I have found that over the past four years of Easton’s life, I really tend to be an avoider of adult conversation when she is present, so as not to make her feel the stress and burden of adult issues. And no, I’m not talking about the small stuff. I’m referring to the bigger private conversations you’d only have at home and face-to-face.

I think this was pre-programmed in me from my early childhood because there was a lot of drama and adult stuff going on around me from a young age. It was overwhelming at best and scary at worst. Tell me, what do you do in these cases?

Feelings are complicated and relationships need maintenance. People need to talk things through so that issues don’t get swept under the rug time and time again, creating rotten floorboards, with the whole house collapsing because of a disintegrated foundation. But when do you do that with a child around 24/7? I often wonder when it’s actually appropriate to have these adult conversations at all?

So the question is, PEOPLE.com, do you have adult conversations in front of your kids? When do you “get into it”? Do you talk about money issues in front of them? Do you bicker about housekeeping? If you or your significant other piss each other off, do you have it out in front of the kids, or do you wait until they are scarce to dive into a deep discussion?

Have you decided that some adult conversations are good for them to hear so that they have sense of reality? Perhaps you are more comfortable with conflict and think that honest and open discussion is appropriate for kids to hear.

I don’t know about you, but based on my childhood I tend not to want to discuss the difficult stuff in front of the little one. Any time things could possibly get heated, I always reply, “Not now.” Good in some ways, not good in others, I’ll admit.

In truth, by the time Easton goes to sleep, I’m pooped and not really in the mood to have some intense conversation about feelings. All I want to do is get into soft clothes and crawl under my covers for some rest. Let’s face it, you run around all day getting things done and then when you come home you just want to chill, right?

Tell me, ladies, do you fight in front of the kids? And if you don’t, when do you find the time to talk to your partner or spouse? Is it on the phone after you’ve dropped the kids off at school and are on your way to work? Or is it during those precious hours after the children have gone to sleep?

It’s tricky, I know. Many of my friends complain that by the time the kids are asleep they are too tired and not interested in giving up their few free hours to resolving some conflict with their spouse. I couldn’t agree more much of the time.

When do you manage to get real with the one you love? When do you have it out, get deep and find resolutions to the problems that inevitably arise in your intimate relationship? And what is appropriate for the little ones to hear?

I’m dying to know the methods you use to handle this inevitable madness.

Until next time! xo

– Elisabeth Röhm

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Showing 33 comments

Lisa Knapp on

I try not to fight in front of my kids, in fact I hate fighting in general. I’m totally a lover not a fighter as well, however, heated arguments seem to happen in our household because my hubby gets very emotional and his emotions take over. This often can’t be controlled. We are working on it but sometimes we both just have to walk away and relax before saying something we regret.

Family Matters NZ on

I think it’s OK to have a disagreement, squabble or difference of opinion in front of the kids. Even a shouting match from time to time. None of our kids is going to go through life without some form of conflict and I think I’d rather them see it at home, and see how it can be resolved and how you can move on.

Teach them to argue without rancour, teach them that you can still love someone even if you don’t agree with them or were mad with them, and teach them how to forgive.

Adult conversations are a different thing. It’s hard to speak uninterrupted about important matters when there is a child around, and sometimes these things are so big that you need to talk freely.

Also, little pitchers do have big ears and amazing memories, and you can never know which bit of your conversation they will file away and bring back when you least expect it!

Angela on

I think it’s healthy for children to see parents have discussions/disagreements. I think they could learn conflict resolution pretty easily if they observe their parents having a difference of opinion and discussing it fairly and openly, while attempting to respect the other person’s perspective. They don’t always happen that way, but people should always be aware of the little ones and how they will learn to model that behavior. There can be a happy medium, so not constantly arguing in front of the kids but also not ignoring issues that need to be addressed in the hopes that they’ll go away.

I grew up in an environment where my parents rarely discussed anything, so imagine the shock I went through when I realized that life was not the utopia my parents wanted to make us think it was. It was a very surface way of living/behaving, rarely getting to any deep-rooted issues. So parents who constantly fight and parents who pretend that everything is OK can both impact children in a negative fashion, just in a different way.

Although you mentioned that you handle the adult situations when your daughter isn’t around, “I’m guilty of wanting harmony so much that I can tend to avoid difficulty. I sometimes find that I push things aside that are uncomfortable, assuming that all will be better later and that whatever I’m feeling is not really a big deal” makes me think you may not be dealing with them at all. And for your sake I hope that’s not the case.

You deserve to be heard and get your feelings across to your partner, and he deserves to do the same. So I hope you’re not constantly apologizing for the sake of avoiding an uncomfortable discussion later. You’ll ultimately wake up one day resenting your partner and likely yourself for that long-ignored elephant in the room.

Lilybett on

Heated debate, yes; screaming match with hateful words, no. My parents never fought in front of us, so I never learned how it was done and end up in a blubbering mess whenever my Lovely Husband and I need to word through some issues.

My Dad and my stepmum, though, never shy away from having an argument (civilised, mind you) in front of the kids, and my younger brothers are now great at arguing for their position/opinion. They can calmly admit to their feelings and not have it escalate to a screaming fit. It’s amazing (although not when you’re trying to convince them to do something they don’t want to do) and I’m very jealous of that skill.

Kelly on

I do think it is healthy for children to see their parents civilly resolve conflict. Like you, I tend to avoid conflict when the children are around and also like you, by the time they are in bed, I am too tired to hash out any issues. I do NOT think it is healthy for children to witness screaming matches between their parents. I can’t imagine that lends them a sense of security and stability, so I do whatever I can to avoid those types of situations.

stacey on

Easton looks adorable in this picture!!!!!

Karen on

I completely agree that kids need to see parents disagree/healthy fights. I grew up and never saw my parents disagree and it completely distorted my reality on a true relationship/marriage. I just thought mom and dads always agreed on everything, and didn’t realize that theres alot more work involved. LOL.

I think its important to show kids that its normal to disagree and/or fight, if you think the topic is passionate enough to make a stand on. It’s also important to teach kids how to “fight fare.” No name calling, no bringing up old topics….etc

Athena6515 on

I think having an adult conversion/disagreement teaches your kids how to have a healthy balance. It teaches them how to have a disagreement and how to work through the disagreement in a healthy productive way.

There is not reason to have a screaming match in front of your kids, but if you are able to have a discussion as 2 grown, rationale adults you are teaching your children how to talk it out and resolve it without violence. Too many children turn into adult who hit to resolve the problem because that is all they see and they don’t have anyone to teach them how to “solve a problem verbally”.

Courtney on

Simple disagreements that end with healthy decisions and conversations laced with concern are ok, but never yelling, never swearing, and never super serious conversations in front of our daughter. Not that we fight a lot, because we don’t, but there are times we do. I think it’s healthy for kids to see how to work out a problem, but there are many things that should be done in private. Our daughter is three, and picks up on EVERYTHING.

Jess on

We don’t talk about things that could worry the kids in front of them. Our kids are 10 and 4. So the 10 year old, he can handle a bit more. The 4 year old, doesn’t quite understand a lot of subjects yet. We try to have those conversations while the kids aren’t around. When our 10 year old son is at school and the little one is occupied playing with her ponies or something. lol

Our 10 year old son has overheard things and it has worried him. When we are discussing bills or how to make time for something, he gets it and it worries him. We explain to him that we will figure it out and he does not need to worry, we will always find a solution.

AP on

As a child growing up, my parents never fought in front of me. To this day I have never seen my parents argue. When I started having relationships of my own, I realized that I had no idea how to fight. I could have a logical debate with anyone, but an emotional argument with a boyfriend made me shut down because I didn’t know how to deal with it. I figured it out on my own, but it would have saved me some rough times if I had known how to handle myself better.

nk on

For the first 7 years of our daughters life, we kept our very rare disagreements private. When she was 7 she saw her first one, and it was bigger than normal, probably because we didn’t deal with the little bumps that had happened along the way that year. The result was, she went to school and told her teacher that her Mommie and Daddy were getting a divorce. That word never once came up in the argument.

From then on, if we had anything to say we said it, and resolved our issue in front of her. She’s now almost 18, and I’m proud to say that she can state her feelings and opinions in a compassionate and respectful way. She never calls others down for a difference in opinion, but listens to their positions attentively and welcomes open dialogue from all of her friends and family.

I think it’s healthy for children to see that it’s okay to have difference of opinions and to share their feelings even if those opinions are different. It teaches them how to communicate in all situations.

Kar on

My husband and I will argue in front of our daughter. There is the line you don’t cross – hurtful words or involving her – but fighting can be healthy. Too many people are go along, get along – and then get walked all over. It is part of my job to teach my daughter how to stand up for herself, even if it gets difficult. Fighting really is a skill, my husband for along time could be very nasty, so someone needs to set the example.

Chrysalis on

My husband hates it when I fight with him in front of the kids. He comes from a set of parents who have been married for 30+ years, however the jury is still out on how happy they really are together. I come from a set of divorced parents. I think it is ok to let kids know that life is NOT perfect all the time, that mommies and daddies do fight and get mad at each other and that sometimes mommies and daddies do not stay together.

I remember being blindsided when my dad left and my parents divorced because they never did fight in front of me. Not that I would have liked it…but it’s reality. I think it is wrong to give kids a false sense of reality. And I think it is wrong to pretend that everything is ok when it is not, “just for the kids”. What does that teach them about life and relationships? That it’s better to pretend and avoid conflict than to be happy?

Yes there are some things that should be “let go”. I’m learning that as I go along, that some things really aren’t worth fighting over. But other things, when pushed aside too many times, get built up and eventually bubble over into a much bigger and harder to fix issue.

QTPi on

I never saw my parents have a fight or even have a heated discussion. I had no skills in navigating through the world of talking about the hard stuff. I had to learn about “fair” fighting through trial and error. Mostly by the awful way my ex-husband talked to me when he was angry. When my divorce became final, I vowed to never speak to anyone in anger and to not let stuff simmer and brew until it exploded.

My husband and I find that just taking care of business when it occurs is great for all parties. It allows us to take care of things right away and it allows the kids to see that you can disagree in a loving manner and that communication is always the best thing.

Even if our voice raise a little as usually happens when one is defending their position, there never is name calling or screaming or anything like that. There is always an apology and smooches involved. And then life goes on as if nothing happened. The kids learn to fight in a safe and comfortable environment. We don’t even call them fights because they really aren’t. We are discussing something that one of us feels is necessary.

Now, if we are discussing something that would cause the children to worry like we don’t have enough money to pay the rent or I say you flirting with the next door neighbor, we would have that discussion privately.

Use your best judgement but don’t hide conflict from your children or they won’t learn how to deal with it.

Mintie on

As a kid, my parents would fight in front of us…well not in front, but within ear reach. My mom was a lover, but my dad would have screaming fit.

Fast forward to my moving in with my now husband and the first fight we had, I started to scream to be heard. He told me in a very calm voice that with him, screaming was not allowed and that if I wasn’t able to resolve my anger without shouting, that I would have to keep silent until I was able to speak calm and logic thoughts. We have now been married for 10 years and believe me, his conflict resolution in a calm manner, it works and it’s peaceful.

Stefanie on

I agree that there is a way to fight with a spouse in front of a child. My parents had disagreements/debates (about social issues, etc) as I grew up but we never saw any disagreements in regards to their relationship.

After almost 30 years together, they are now in the middle of a divorce and up until recently, I never thought they had any real issues in regards to their relationship. Shouting matches behind closed doors-none. So honestly, its all kind of a shock that you can live and grow up with parents and think they have an almost perfect relationship only to realize later that its not the case at all.

My mom now feels like maybe she shouldn’t have tried to hide everything as they did.I think I could have learned a little more about relationships if they hadn’t. Regardless, I have something to take with me in regards to how I want my own family to be one day.

Crystal on

this is kind of an issue in my household right now…my husband has some anger issues that needs to be worked on and just will not go to counselling (I know this isn’t a therapy forum, but just wanted to get it out, sorry).

this has been an issue for the last 10 years, and i’m 28 now, with three kids with him. stuck, not knowing what to do, i desperately want to be happy with him, but his need for anger and control, in front of our kids has made me lose that want to love him feeling. ok i’m done just wanted that off my chest.

p.s you would never really know by looking at us or being around us that we basically fight all the time, and i feel its starting to affect my 4 year old sons behaviour, i don’t want him to have the same anger issues while he grows…blaaahhhh…

Shells on

My parents never fought in front of us 5 kids. They were married for 56 years before Daddy passed away. I’ve been married for 25 years now and have two sons, 21 & 19. Hubby and I never argue in front of the boys. Never. Because neither one of us is a “my way or the highway” kind of personality, we seldom argue anyway.

Life is way too short to get all worked up about stuff that simply doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. Enjoy each other, is our motto! Don’t sweat the small stuff. That is the lesson I want my boys to learn so they will become husbands that love and enjoy their wives and family.

Stephanie on

As long as there’s no screaming or name-calling, I think it’s healthy to have disagreements in front of the kids. They need to see the world as it really is. What would sugar-coated lies teach them about life? There will always be problems that come along and they need to see how to deal with them. If things aren’t discussed and just kept inside, resentment builds and that’s never healthy.

Monica on

When my husband and I were in pre-marital counseling at church, the counselor told us that it’s ok to argue in front of the kids (not in ugly words, name calling fashion of course) so long as the kids also see the reconciliation- so they understand that even after an argument Mommy and Daddy still love each other. That made a lot of sense to me.

Of course we do argue in front of the kids but are working on not getting so heated because we don’t want the girls to think that is all that parents do- fight. I would love to be in a marriage where we get along all the time and birds sing, but that isn’t reality. So it’s a fine line with us of teaching the kids that sometimes Mommy and Daddy do argue but that we still love each other, and that Mommy and Daddy’s fight all the time or are always angry with each other.

We definitely have some conversations in private when the kids are sleeping. Usually about the kids- discipline issues, school issues, concerns, etc. The kids both have big ears and the oldest is learning her alphabet so we won’t be able to spell out words much longer so anything I don’t want them to hear or know about we wait til they are sleeping.

meme on

do we fight in front of the kids? yes. we also kiss and say “I am sorry that I hurt your feelings” in front of the kids too. if you are going to do one you have to do the other to show your children the power of forgiveness.

Jess on

Hi Elisabeth,

I think it depends on the issue. An argument here or there isn’t going to hurt the child. My parents argued in front of my brother and myself, nothing horrible and major but they argued and we turned out fine. But a full blown hurtful argument with screaming and swearing, yes that would not be appropriate in front of a child. But a disagreement over certain matters would be ok. You don’t want your child to grow up or get into a relationship thinking arguments never happen. That would lead them into the wrong direction or they would then be in for the surprise of their life when their significant other says “didn’t your parents ever fight?”

Jess

Missy on

We had a tense argument two days ago in front of our 4-year old girl. My husband and I resolved it (some yelling back and forth) and then he went to work. After work, he brought flowers and a card addressed to both of us saying “I’m sorry. I love you both.” and we had a group hug. Later, when my daughter and I were alone, she asked me “Where’s the card you are going to give Daddy?”, and it prompted me to reciprocate to him. I think it has helped her to understand that we disagree sometimes, and that we have to talk it through and then find ways to make it up to each other.

Alice on

We do, sometimes, fight in front of our children. We may yell and scream but our kids also see us make up. They see that you can get mad but that doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. They understand that you can be mad at someone, say what you need to say, argue back and forth, and eventually be happy again. If you don’t fight in front of your kids sometimes, they don’t understand the cycle.

Kids are very intuitive and if they see parents giving each other the silent treatment (because parents don’t want to fight in front of the kids), they don’t learn how to voice their opinions when they are upset. As adults, they end up with relationship problems because they don’t know how to handle problems.

My husband and I have been happily married for 18 years and we fight from time to time but we always smoothe out the differences. Our girls also know that “fighting” is natural.

G on

Actually, research has shown that children who grow up in homes without fighting/disagreements/conflict have greater problems in their adult life. This is partly due to the fact that they don’t learn how to argue or solve conflict during their developmental years. I’m not advocating anything rash but appropriate disagreements should be addressed in front of children depending on the topic and maturity of the child. As parents, it is our duty to teach them how to handle situations that they will encounter throughout their lifetime – from the playground to the boardroom.

(For credibility sake, have a graduate degree in the field of conflict resolution.)

cat on

Arguing is healthy and normal arguing helps you voice your concerns and hopefully reslove the conflict. If you hold your issues in and wait till the kids are asleep when you are too tired to discuss the om with your partner this is an unhealthy cycle. Get it out in the open and if your kids are around obviously you need to keep that in consideration and remember to argue fairly no over the top shouting matches or anything but get your messages across to each other as appropriatley as you can. Sometimes people get so heated they do cross the line and that is when you say we will continue this discussion when you want to communicate with me like a civilized adult. This shows your children arguing is ok when you are angry or upset with someone but also escalating to a shouting match or saying hurtful or deragatory things is unaceptable. They will see what a healthy relationship is. Everyone argues. Everyone disagrees now and then. Everyone has the right to express there opinions and frustrations when they feel they have been wronged. There is just a right way to do it. Then when the issues are hopefully adressed and resolved parents should forgive each other openly so the kids see that conflicts can be resolved and there is always room for forgiveness. If you fight in secret they will never learn how to stand up for themselves in a relationship and will be shocked and shattered to learn marriage is not a perfect union. Life is messy and that is ok. You work through it. I bet most people who get divorced never saw their parents fight and ran scared from their own marriage because they did not learn to deal with conflict.

Rita Jo on

I loved all your comments and I am like you.

I can honestly say that in the 30 plus years I have been married I haven’t been angry at my husband more than 4 or 5 times. I believe we were made for each other and that is why we have had so few conflicts. Those few conflicts were over trivial stuff too, nothing ever really serious.

Shannon on

Disagree? Yes. Fight? No.

Krissy on

In my job I set expectations, therefore, I am good at setting my kids’ expectations at home. If we never fight in front of them, when they get out into the world, their expectations will be out of alignment with the rest of the population, and they will have zero clue how to navigate through their lives once inevitable conflict arises. My exhusband’s father’s parents (did you follow that??) never once fought in front of him so then when he had issues with his wife he thought he married the wrong person and they had too many problems, which wasn’t ‘normal’ to him so he left her with 5 kids!! He honestly thought he had a horrible relationship and marriage because their was conflict and there should not have been. Of course, he realized that later with other relationships, but it did cost him his first marriage.

I think when you leave kids out of certain aspects of your lives, you are disrespecting them. Allow them to see conflict and then the subsequent resolution to learn invaluable life skills they will use to negotiate their own lives. Now having said that, plates are for eating on, not throwing…lol, and they don’t need to bare witness to knock out drag out battles, but you get my point.

jdflover on

I think healthy conflict and conflict resolution is a VERY good thing for kids to see. Our world is FILLED to the brim with drama being the end all for relationships….people not fighting fair, or breaking up over seemingly small matters.

I want my kids to know that you WILL fight with your spouse, it is unavoidable, but it doesn’t mean you don’t love one another, and can’t work anything and everything out. My parents fought at times, but they always do so fairly, no one stepping over the line that can’t be uncrossed. My husband’s parents didn’t. He had a VERY hard time when we would argue, especially when we were first married. He has learned that we aren’t going to end, or even have a bad relationship just because we had a fight….tempers cool, issues get worked out, and we are better than ever after.

cathy1 on

I grew up in a family where my parents never fought or raised their voices in front of us. My Dad said that was something that they both felt strongly about. However, I think they did us a injustice b/c if fighting started in any relationship of mine, I thought it was over & that he didn’t love me anymore. Kinda warped things for me & my brothers.

annacolleen on

I am guilty of having fought with my husband, when our kids were growing up, and fell terrible about some of the scenes they witnessed. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a great guy, now, but he’s a retired lawyer too. I know that the way he approached me had alot to do with the bickering, and had I not stood up for myself, my kids would have seen me as more of a “rug’ than they do now. We even had to separate for 3 years, but I always kept him in the loop, had him over for family time, dinners, and holidays. Many relatives didn’t understand, and said things around our kids, which would send them into a tizzy, and ask about divorce, but we had no such intentions.

When I was growong up, my parents were alcoholics, and they tended to have some violent arguments, which were dangerous not only to them, but to their offspring. Both of them did their best under the circumstances, but if alcohol were taken out of the equation, I know that they never would have behaved the way they did, my father using his fists, and my mother dragging all 5 of us into their arguments. I did find myself, almost doing the same thing, and stopped myself. I’d made that promise to a 4 year old me. I also promised a little me, to not drink, if I was like my parents. I did drink, for about 9 months, and remembered that, and stopped.

So, I would say that it depends on your personality, on whether to fight in front of your children. If you tend to have frequest screaming matches, it’s probably best not to do that, especially if alcohol is involved. If you have a partner or spouse who needs to win all arguments at all costs, I’d say that you want your kids to see that you are no doormat, and choose the battles, and carefully. If you both are easy going, and barely raise your voices, I don’t think fighting will be that much of a problem. Just assure your child of your love for them, and each other. You are probably in a good posistion to show your child how to have arguments, sucessfully. That’s a skill that they can take with them, when thry fly away, and begin the family thing anew.

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